Genetic makeup pays

Trista and John Stibbard and their Kelpie offsider, Rex, with 226 ewes with lambs at foot on a grazed oats paddock at Cambawarra, Coolah.
Trista and John Stibbard and their Kelpie offsider, Rex, with 226 ewes with lambs at foot on a grazed oats paddock at Cambawarra, Coolah.

KONSORTIUM bloodlines have influenced fertility and high yielding carcases within the breeding flock of John and Trista Stibbard at Cambawarra, Coolah.

Without any hand feeding, the couple achieved a 145 per cent lambing percentage thanks to their genetic make-up and management practices.

The Stibbards are no strangers to success.

It is wether lambs bred at Cambawarra that have broken Australian Merino wether record prices out of the Dunedoo saleyards twice in as many years.

However, Mr and Mrs Stibbard give credit to Andrew and Caroline Brougham, Gildry, Leadville, who buy the Cambawarra lambs, grow them out to prime lamb qualities on their Leadville property before marketing through the Milling Stuart saleyards at Dunedoo.

"The wethers the Broughams buy from Cambawarra have performed well," Mr Stibbard said.

"Last year the top lambs made a record-price of $268 a head, these were July/August 2017 drop, just under 12 months-old.

"Wethers bought in 2018 were straight off their mothers due to the drought with the tops making $313 a head in Spring 2019."

The Broughams also purchased classed-out ewe lambs and hogget ewes from the Stibbards.

"This took some pressure off our grazing and feeding," Mrs Stibbard said.

"After the Sir Ivan fire where two-thirds of Cambawarra was burnt, that and the season cutting out, pushed us into a massive feeding year in 2018. We fed everything all the way through and we just didn't want to do that again this year. It was so physically, mentally and financially draining."

With the sale of surplus ewes, the Stibbards don't have any sheep older than four-and-a-half years.

"We lamb them as four year olds and then sell them six months later around February," Mr Stibbard said.

Joining is normally on February 15, but this year was from March 3 with reduced numbers of 561 ewes from the normal 900.

"The lesser number are from us selling the four-and-a-half-year-olds and the whole drop of maiden ewes, leaving only ewes rising three and four years old," Mr Stibbard said.

They split the remaining 561 lambing ewes into two mobs and gained 816 lambs without any hand feeding for a 145pc lambing percentage.

"We marked 334 lambs from one mob of 226 ewes and 482 lambs from the other mob of 335 ewes," he said.

"We find they are really great mothers. That first 24 hours after birth, which is so important, the ewes stay with their newborn lambs even in difficult seasons.

"It's definitely their genetic makeup and fertility. I believe this has come from what we've done with our sheep, and the classing done by Scott Heeney."

HIGH fertility is the driver of all livestock breeding, and John and Trista Stibbard have made it their focus with additional emphasis on carcase and then wool at Cambawarra, Coolah.

By "plaining-up their sheep", freeing up the necks, opening their faces, stretching them out for better carcases, the Stibbards believe they have a profitable recipe.

"We started the change in 1999," Mr Stibbard said.

John's parents, Bill and Nan, took up the property in 1963 and started on sheep of mainly Haddon Rig blood.

John and Trista attended a few soft rolling skin (SRS) days with the late Jim Watts before they changed direction looking for a more easy-care sheep which would lift fertility.

They sourced rams from Wallaloo Park and Glendemar for a few years, yard joining in mobs of 200 to get the best of each ram.

Then followed Multi Purpose Merinos and now Jandon Park, Molong, of Chris and Jenny Blowes, who are part of the Konsortium Merino group.

They stopped mulesing in 2017 but Mr Stibbard said they could have stopped before then. "There's no wrinkle on our sheep."

Shearing twice a year their fleeces average 6kg over the two clips.

"We may have lost a kilo of wool, but were prepared to lose that for the other benefits we are getting," he said.

"We've been averaging 130pc lambing for the last six years (ewes joined to lambs marked) and our next step will be towards early joining of lambs at six-months of age."

This story Genetic makeup pays first appeared on The Land.